By the time this war trumpet was made, slaving in Africa was an industry matched only by the ivory trade. Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda stated in 1998 “African chiefs were the ones waging war on each other and capturing their own people and selling them”. Tribal warfare had evolved, and its sole purpose was the capture of slaves for the market. As in Europe, signaling on the battlefield coordinated and directed the attack. The ivory war trumpet oliphant was the means of signaling. This example is 18 5/8” in length, painstakingly carved from an ivory tusk with an open finial, which provided a two-note tone. The mouthpiece (embouchure) is carved in diamond form with a raised ridged annular band. It had a long career indicated by the dark smoky surface colored many hundreds of houses or campfires. The surface was shaped by scraping, not filing and the mouthpiece rings indicate that about ½” of thickness was laboriously scraped down. Its great use has imbued it with a wonderful mottled patina and great character which belies its sinister past. Virtually among the rarest of surviving accouterments of the slave trade. This a superb example of African Art.
Item ID: B1550

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